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BOSTON, Mass. - A Holyoke woman was convicted today in federal court of marriage fraud and concealing and shielding illegal aliens.

MARIA HELENA KNOLLER, 58, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor to arranging dozens of fraudulent marriages and concealing and shielding illegal aliens.

At today’s plea hearing, the prosecutor told the Court that had the case proceeded to trial the Government’s evidence would have proven that from 2003 to 2005, Knoller arranged over 40 fraudulent marriages between Brazilian nationals and American citizens. The purpose of the marriages was to facilitate the fraudulent adjustment of the Brazilian nationals’ immigration status in the United States. According to the prosecutor, Knoller provided one stop shopping for fraudulent marriages and immigration status adjustments. Knoller typically charged a Brazilian national between $6,000 and $8,000 and paid between $2,000 to $4,000 to the American citizen. Knoller instructed the couple how to act and dress, where to get married and how to memorialize the post wedding celebration with pictures that could be presented to the immigration authorities to prove that the marriage was bona fide. At times, Knoller supplied the wedding rings, attended the weddings, took the pictures, prepared the immigration adjustment documents and attended the immigration hearings.

In 2008, a court ordered search of Knoller’s residence uncovered $117,030 in cash, a 13 page list of what appeared to be approximately 70 fraudulent marriages, and a plastic bag containing 61 gold plated wedding bands which Knoller sold to the couples for their fraudulent weddings.

Judge Ponsor scheduled sentencing for July 8, 2011. Knoller faces up to 10 years imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and forfeiture of approximately $250,000 in cash and real property.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) in Boston made the announcement today. The case was investigated by ICE HSI in Springfield, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Regan of Ortiz’s Springfield Office.


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